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What can be done to stop debt collectors from contacting me?

Residents of New York may be interested to know that there is some protection against debt collection that is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are restricted from harassing a debtor.

There are ways a debtor may stop a collector from contacting them. The debtor may ask that the calls cease by contacting the collector using certified mail with a return receipt and keeping a photocopy of the original request. Afterward, the debtor may only be contacted if the collection agency intends to file a lawsuit or to inform them they will no longer call. In addition, if a debtor is represented by an attorney, the collector may only contact the attorney concerning the debt.

Debt collectors are not allowed to make threats, use obscene language, call repeatedly or publish the names of individuals who potentially owe a debt. They are also forbidden to misrepresent themselves, threaten jail, lie about the amount or misrepresent the papers they send to an individual by stating that the papers are legal documents when they are not. Collectors may not falsely present themselves as attorneys or claim they are employed by a company that does credit reports.

Should an individual become a target of unfair debt collection practices, the law allows a period of up to one year to file a lawsuit against the collector. It might be beneficial for an individual who has faced unfair debt collection practices to consult with an attorney. Alternatively, an attorney may be able to provide information about discharging debt by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The attorney may also be able to review the evidence of unfair collection practices and advise the debtor on the feasibility of pursuing a lawsuit.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, “Debt Collection“, December 29, 2014

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